The percentage of women holding top leadership roles has not changed since 2002, and in some cases this percentage is actually declining. Sheryl Sandberg’s TED talk focuses on why “women are not making it to the top of any profession anywhere in the world” and how this can be changed. Since I was very eager to learn more about the topic, the first time I watched the video, I didn’t even realize that it took her a while to get to the real meat of her presentation. She started of simply by recognizing that we are lucky to live in a world (a country) where women have basic civil rights and more opportunities than women had in the past. While this is a good way to relate to the audience, it didn’t draw me in nearly as much as when she started listing off the percentage of women holding leadership roles—in the UN, in the professional world, in nonprofit organizations—most of which were around sixteen percent. I think starting with this startling information would have been a much faster way to capture the audience’s attention, though now that I’m thinking about it even more, she may have been deliberately contrasting our perception of women’s rights with the reality of the situation.
After introducing the the reality of women as leaders, Sheryl Sandberg gave three pieces of advice for women:
- Sit at the table
- Make your partner a real partner
- Don’t leave before you leave
Throughout her speech, Sandberg elaborated on each of these topics, explaining precisely what they meant and also how they relate to women as leaders. These topics served as three basic goals for women in the workforce and actions that women should be conscious of. By explaining these simple concepts, Sandberg was able to reach the audience through anecdotes and examples. She effectively highlighted problems with our current structure of women’s rights—a structure which many people believe is strong and secure (in America and other developed countries) instead of slowly crumbling. I really liked how she provided the audience with simple, but effective, ways to bring about change. When Sandberg spoke, her tone of voice made her simultaneously relatable and inspiring. This combined with her eye contact really enhanced her connection to the audience. I was not only inspired by her topic itself, but also in the delivery of her speech. I did not notice one instance in which she shifted her weight to one foot and stuck her hip out, a problem with posture that seems to plague women.
Sandberg concludes her presentation on a very stimulating note. She recognizes that drastic changes simply are not going to happen for women in her generation, but she is hopeful that future generations of women will be more prominent in leadership roles worldwide. Sandberg paints a picture of what this world would be like by explaining her hopes for her own children. This personal example was an excellent way to conclude her speech and I was left feeling hopeful and ambitious to spark the change she discussed.